Exclusive: "Events like this help", says Coe after Istanbul stages successful World Indoor Championships

Monday, 12 March 2012
By Duncan Mackay in Istanbul

Sebastian Coe_Istanbul_March_2012March 12 - Istanbul's bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics has been given a significant boost by Sebastian Coe, chairman of London 2012, who has praised the city's organisation of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Indoor Championships, which ended here last night.

The Championships, the first of a series of major events to be held in the Turkish city over the next few months, have been widely praised as being among the best ever having taken place before sell-out crowds in the Ataköy Athletics Arena here.

"There were good enthusiastic crowds," Coe told insidethegames. 

"And a full stadium always helps any event like this."

Coe, Britain's former double Olympic 1500 metres champion, is the vice-president of the IAAF and widely seen as a potential candidate to replace Lamine Diack as President when he steps down in 2015.

That gives the Briton a unique perspective on which to make a judgement, especially as many people believe that one of the key events in London's successful bid was the 2003 World Indoor Championships in Birmingham. 

"If you've got any pretensions about staging an Olympic Games you need to have a track record that people recognise and events like this most definitely help," said Coe. 

"Importantly, the athletes tell me they were very well looked after and that counts for a lot because the athletes are the most important stakeholders at any event."

Istanbul 2020 officials also hope that the event will help their bid. 

"It was fantastic to see every seat filled and every spectator cheering all weekend, even when there were no Turkish athletes competing," said Hasan Arat, the vice-president of the National Olympic Committee of Turkey (NOCT), who is expected to be confirmed as the leader of Istanbul's bid to host 2020.

The event, though, was undoubtedly helped by the unprecedented success of the Turkish team with Ilham Tanui Özbilen winning silver and Aslı Çakır Alptekin bronze in the men and women's 1500 metres respectively, the first time athletes from the country had got on the podium at the event.

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"I'm extremely proud for myself and for my country," said Alptekin (pictured), a 26-year-old from Istanbul. 

"This shows the power of major sports events to improve national performance: these Championships have been a massive boost to Turkish athletes.

"I am sure hosting the Olympic Games in 2020 would result in a huge increase in the number of people playing sport in Turkey and improve the performances of our top athletes in international competition."

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It was a view backed by Arat.

"Our sportsmen and women have shown they can compete with the very best in the world, and just as importantly, so have our local Organising Committee staff, and our fans," he said.

"We are just beginning to unlock this city's full potential as an international sports capital; Istanbul 2020 will unite Turkey's designs for the future and the ambitions of our bright, talented young people."

Arat's enthusiasm was echoed by Ugur Erdener, the President of the NOCT and a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), although he was keen to try to emphasise the legacy of the event.

"As soon as the IAAF family return home, the Ataköy Arena will go into legacy mode and very soon it will be serving a vital role in the community as a much needed top-class indoor venue," he said.

"That principle of sustainable development that meets the social and sporting needs of Turkey and the priorities of the Olympic Movement guides every element of our concept."

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